Daily Archives: September 29, 2008

‘The Making of Mr. Hai’s Daughter’ A Memoir

Soniah Kamal

Usually one hears of desi immigrant parents preferring, or forcing if you will, their kids to adhere to the traditions and customs of backhome and, usually, these parents are referred to as ‘backwards’. What of those immigrant-parents who are ‘forwards’? Those who actively seek to assimilate into other lands and other ways so that they themselves do not become the ‘other’? Can it go too far forwards too? Yasmin Hai’s father was one such forward and Yasmin writes about her upbringing in her memoir ‘The Making of Mr. Hai’s Daughter: Becoming British’. Sounds absolutely delightful.

Here’s an excerpt from the memoir.

Here’s a review in the Spectator.

Mr Hai’s idea of Britishness was very different from the British version. Not once did he mention the importance of going down the boozer and watching the footy. Instead, he instructed his children to read Milton and Shakespeare and to behave with quiet decorum. This was probably looked upon by the locals as a strange Indian custom…Yasmin’s new job as a journalist for Newsnight enabled her to interview old acquaintances about their new-found brand of Islam. To her dismay, she found herself being frequently scolded by ex- Bhajis for not being a proper Muslim. Her television producers, meawhile, were delighted to have a ‘genuine Muslim’ as a colleague and frequently yelled at her to locate ‘mad mullahs’ to titillate their audiences. ‘Find Muslim women to defend the line in the Koran about wife beating,’ was another urgent request. Yasmin felt bemused. What had happened to her late father’s ideas of assimilation? A wider gulf than ever was being formed, not between the English and Asians, but between Muslims and everyone else.Had Mr Hai succeeded in turning his daughter into an Englishwoman? I’m not sure it really matters any more, but his kindly influence obviously enabled his little Yasmin to write this unbelievably funny, passionate autobiography.

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